It doesn’t happen all that often. Maybe about every lunar eclipse, or so it seems.
The Bronx Science boys volleyball team proved to be human after all last week when the Wolverines were handed their first league loss of the season in straight-sets, 25-17, 25-16, to division-rival Walton.
The defeat matches the number the Wolverines had in division play all of last season when they finished 9-1 on their way to win the Bronx A Division title. In fact, Bronx Science has lost just one regular-season game in each of the past three seasons, winning the division crown each time.
So you can see why it’s news when Science is handed a loss.
Walton was dominant throughout the match, no doubt. But the Wolverines were playing without two senior starters in co-captain Ethan Rhabb and John Ragaishis, which left a gaping hole in the Wolverines’ game plan. Rhabb was off at a college visit while Ragaishis was home sick.
And their presence was definitely missed.
“I don’t think we can use that as an excuse,” said junior Jake Goldsmith, after the match. “We all have to step up with Ethan and John not being here, and we didn’t.”
Walton jumped on Bronx Science right from the start as the Wildcats built a quick 10-4 lead in the first set. The Science deficit soon became 18-10 before the Wolverines staged a bit of a comeback to pull within 20-15.
But Walton never let the Wolverines get any closer, closing out the first set with a six-kill flurry led by Randy Marte.
Science grabbed a quick 3-2 lead in the second set, looking to even the match at 1. But Walton responded with seven straight points to take a 9-3 lead, and the Wildcats never let up.
That six-point advantage became a 19-11 lead, and though Science never quit, the Wolverines could not get closer than five points the rest of the way.
“We were just a little short-handed in this one and we got out of it early,” Goldsmith said.
It was the second straight season in which Walton handed the Wolverines their only league loss. Science did win the first meeting between the two teams earlier this season when the Wolverines logged a hard-fought 27-25, 22-25, 25-15 victory April 11.
As Goldsmith said afterward, it’s better for Science to put this loss in its rearview mirror as it turns its focus to the upcoming Public School Athletic League playoffs.
“I think we have to, “ said Goldsmith, who logged three blocks and a kill in the loss. “We’ve been cruising through the PSAL, and today was kind of a surprise. So we just have to focus more now with the playoffs coming up because we’re going to face teams like this, and better than this, in the playoffs.”
The victory likely means the two teams will finish as co-regular season champs with identical 9-1 marks. Bronx Science’s final regular-season match was against Clinton earlier this week, and the Wolverines already had dispatched the Governors 25-12, 25-16 in their first meeting. Rhabb and Ragaishis were both expected back for that game.
Walton was scheduled to meet Columbus in its final regular season game, and the Wildcats had already knocked off the Sharks 25-10, 25-21 in their initial meeting.
A co-championship ends the Wolverines’ streak of three straight outright titles, but what does it still mean?
“It still means something, but that was not our goal coming into the season,” Goldsmith said. “We want to win the city championship, that’s our main goal. So it still means something. But we’re not done.”
And with both Rhabb and Ragaishis back for the postseason run, might there be some more big wins coming out of Bronx Science before all is said and done?
“I think when we’re at full strength we can compete pretty much with any team in the city,” Goldsmith said. “When we’re all here and playing at our best, we can beat anyone.”